Workers comp efforts improving, administrator says PDF Print E-mail
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN/Sentinel County Editor   
Monday, 22 April 2013 08:14
TimBrown.396_rotator
File photo. State Rep. Tim Brown.
Local employers are tired of being guilty until proven innocent when it comes to workers comp claims. They are unhappy with incomplete reviews of complaints. And they are fed up with claims that seem to go on forever.
But last week, they were assured by Steve Buehrer, administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, that the system was getting better and isn’t intended to be stacked against them.
Buehrer met with local business leaders at the request of State Rep. Tim Brown and State Sen. Randy Gardner, both R-Bowling Green.
“These folks are on the front line, dealing with workers comp issues,” Brown said.
Buehrer said he shared an understanding of employer concerns since he and his wife previously owned a flower shop.
“At times government can be very difficult to deal with,” he said.
Even though improvements have been made in the workers comp system in Ohio, Buehrer said he realizes business owners will never be fans of the program.
“At the end of the day, none of you are going to leap out of your shorts when you pay the Bureau of Workers Compensation,” he said.
To put it in basic terms, BWC is a large insurance agency that ideally should help both injured workers and their employers. So big, Buehrer said, that it routinely collects and disperses about $2 billion a year.
Though it still needs improvements, Buehrer said the system works much more smoothly than in the 1990s, when it took an average of 63 days for the program to determine an injury had occurred. That average is now just three days, he said.
The BWC offers discounts for companies that pool with other businesses for coverage. Buehrer said those type of programs keep rates low and “stable and predictable for Ohio employers.” Discounts are also offered to employers opening new companies in Ohio.
The agency continues to try to reduce costs, Buehrer said, by stressing workplace safety.
“Prevention and care — that’s what we do at the bureau,” he said. “The injury you never have is the best claim you ever had.”
Buehrer also emphasized the value of wellness programs in the workplace. Workers who are obese or suffer from heart disease generally have more on the job injuries and longer recovery times, he said.
The Bureau of Workers Compensation has tried to cut costs by cracking down on cases where injured workers become addicted to pain medications. He also said the agency is working hard to reduce fraud.
“I can tell you, it’s an area we take very seriously,” he said. Employees trying to scam the system should be worried about being caught. “I want people who are cheating the system to think about it.”
Workers compensation is not intended to be a disability program — yet too few people are returning to work after injuries, according to Buehrer.
“It’s driving the costs up for all of you,” he said.
Buehrer said there are ways for employers to reduce workers compensation costs.
First, try to prevent injuries. Second, look for ways to give light duty work to injured employees. And third, don’t challenge every claim.
“If this is a legitimate claim that happened in your workplace,” don’t fight it, he said.
Last Updated on Monday, 22 April 2013 08:32
 

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